Capture the memory, tell the story

Telling stories is what we all do. In the pub, on a long drive with friends or over the garden wall; it’s part of our social DNA. It’s how we, as children, learned about our country and family history and for centuries it was how news travelled from town to town, at meeting places and in our homes. Technology has always changed how we communicate, some might say, not for the better, but inevitably technology shifts how a story is told and when a story is heard. From the Gutenburg Press, to the telegraph; from the radio to the telephone and from TV to the internet, each leap forward in technology doesn’t alter our need to talk, it simply changes when and how we do it.


Citizen reporters now capture news as it happens and share it instantly across our social networks. We’ve become a species of soundbites and micro comments and with it we may have lost art of the story and with it our human connection. We have galleries of billions of images stored and shared online, one-liner comments made billions of times a day and moments that should be treasured now rattle past our eyes like bottles on a conveyor belt. Have you ever looked at old family photographs and looked into the faces of people you don’t know, a captured moment that is long gone from people’s memories? Who tells the story about these precious memories when the people that made them aren’t here to tell it themselves?

Our habit for storytelling, once a child’s means of connecting with their family’s history, told at the knees of their parents and grandparents, is being lost. Voices that were once passed on from generation to generation are getting quieter and quieter and all too quickly are lost, leaving behind echos of the past we can no longer translate. I have a recording of my daughter, now 19, speaking the answer phone message on our then new phone. She recorded it when she was 4 and whenever I hear it I’m transported instantly back to her childhood and the memory burns bright once again. I hope, and what interests me more than anything about Memory Box, is that we re-capture telling stories. We let the people in our photographs speak and bring their stories to life, preserved for generations to come.

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My Newcastle participant. Photographed by Colin Davison